Blogging 'Einstein'

Philip Glass's Masterwork, Minute by Breathless Minute

Lucie Jansch

By Eileen Reynolds

Published September 21, 2012.
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(page 7 of 8)

–:–: Black, empty stage. The big white bar is lying horizontally on the ground. What’s this? Some fabulous new organ lick — drones on the bottom, with fast moving notes on the top. Sounds like any of the great organ preludes. You can really tell that, even if he rejected it all later, Glass studied counterpoint. I keep coming back to Bach. Does it really sound like Bach, or is it just that it’s an organ? I LOVE this. Oh! The white bar is lifting up on the left side. How long has it been doing that? When it reaches an angle of about thirty degrees, the man from the couple to my left sneezes twice, in time with the music. The left end of the big white bar continues its ascent. It is blinding but I can’t keep my eyes off it. It finally reaches vertical.

–:–: Down in the pit, one of the chorus girls — the one who liked the conch — starts singing into the microphone, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah.” Her voice is lower, richer than I expected. She’s looking up at the balcony behind me. Has the conductor moved up there? One of the organ notes sounds out of tune. Is that possible? Do electric organs go out of tune? Has the Philip Glass Ensemble been using the same ones since the 1960s? The white bar of light starts rising upward. We are transfixed. When the light is gone and the girl stops singing, the audience whoops like she’d sung a Puccini aria.

!!:!!: OH MY! All the automatons are at work on this giant, three-level matrix of bright lights. They’re scurrying all around, plugging this in here, that in there. With their backs to us, they all look the same in those white shirts and suspenders. There is a clock rising out of hell, with green smoke. Oh, the clock is in a glass casket! The little boy is inside! It’s moving up, up, up, vertically, with his hands clasped in prayer! Here comes another glass casket, from stage right, with a woman inside, moving across the stage horizontally! The music is so busy I can’t think! The coffins are going to collide! No, whew, one is actually behind the other. The slim gal from the first train scene is marching back and forth again, only this time, there’s also someone next to her with flashlights doing that land-a-plane dance. Einstein is here but not playing. Organ organ organ, loud loud loud. The voices seem to be coming from everywhere — from behind me. Is some of the chorus up in the balcony? Einstein starts his scale-exercise thing again. I finally notice that the musicians — saxophonist, organist, the whole lot of ‘em — are in the big matrix thing, too. Someone is saying something about tickets.

–:–: Okay, the curtain is down and Einstein is out front. He’s playing alone. No, the organ is doubling his line. No, there are organ sounds coming out of his violin. I can’t tell anymore! Behind him, a small white rocket is slowly making its way up, travelling diagonally across the stage at a 45-degree angle. It reminds me of the little boy’s paper airplane, but it might be a missile. It’s being pulled on a wire, so its movements are all herky-jerky, not smooth.


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